Fort Wayne – Patrons who visit ThEatery in Huntington or stop in for a meal and show at The New Huntington Supper Club have head chef Jim Houser to thank for their pleasant meal experiences.
Houser, 38, has been at the restaurant since it opened May 28 and worked alongside owners Rich Najuch and Joel Froomkin, creating menus for both establishments.
“The same kitchen feeds both, and we also do catering,” he says. “The summer shows are filling up fast.”
Houser, a resident of Huntington County and father of five, received his basic culinary education from Ivy Tech Community College – Northeast. His training continued at Orchard Ridge Country Club and then at Parkview Health, where he worked at their facilities.
“I used to be executive chef at Parkview. I cooked for a lot of events for Parkview. That’s where I got my experience for cooking for large-volume groups,” he says.
Comparing what he does today to what he’s done, Houser, who is also an ice sculptor, says, “Honestly, this is only one kitchen. In my last employment, I was in charge of six kitchens in one establishment. When I came here, I was simplifying.”
Asked how he’s able to manage food preparation between the restaurant and theater-goers, Houser says, “We’re going for a nice balanced meal. It is upscale but not complex. It’s a high-quality simple food. We try to balance the hours between the restaurant and the supper club. They’re two different styles of food. We didn’t want to sacrifice quality and service.”
Q. What’s your favorite cooking utensil?
A. Knives and butter. I take knives and butter with me on every trip we go on. Clarified butter, because you can never buy it everywhere.
Q. What’s your favorite vegetable?
A. I’d have to say, seriously, you’ve got to have all the vegetables.
Q. If you were stuck on an island, what’s one food you would have to have?
A. Peanuts. Yeah, you can live off peanuts. OK, I’m going to change that – black truffles. I’ll just sit on a beach and shave some truffles and eat that.
Q. What plans do you and your wife, Tiffany, have for the Fourth of July?
A. I’ll be cooking ribs with my kids. Pending weather, we’ll visit relatives at the lake and watch fireworks with the kids – from a distance.
200 grape tomatoes, sliced
1 cup olive oil
1/2 cup lemon juice
1 1/2 cups basil, chopped
1/2 cup garlic, chopped
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon black pepper
Using a food processor with a slicing attachment, slice tomatoes. Combine all ingredients. Drain as needed. Makes 50 servings.
Sicilian Eggplant Relish
1/2 cup olive oil
1 large eggplant, diced medium
1 large onion, diced medium
2 stalks celery, diced medium
3 medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced
1/3 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
1/3 cup Sicilian olives, pitted and chopped
3 tablespoons raisins
1 1/2 tablespoons capers
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
Sauté eggplant in oil in batches until brown; place in bowl. Sauté onions and celery until tender; add remaining ingredients except pine nuts. Simmer 20 minutes, add eggplant and cook 10 minutes. Cool. Fold in pine nuts and season with salt and pepper. Serve on sandwiches. Makes 30 servings.